Governor Bill Haslam, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, and Mayor Andy Berke joined with students, parents and community leaders to cut the ribbon to open the new VW eLab at Hixson Middle School Tuesday. Hixson Middle was one of eight new VW eLabs opened this school year in Hamilton County Schools. The other VW eLabs are located at Brainerd High, Brown Middle, Chattanooga High Center for Creative Arts, Hixson High, Ooltewah Middle, Orchard Knob Middle and Soddy Daisy Middle.
The Hixson Middle VW eLab is representative of eight of the additional VW eLabs at schools in Hamilton County Schools opening this year to give more students access to new high tech digital fabrication. The ribbon cutting at Hixson Middle is the second round of Volkswagen eLabs to be funded by a partnership between Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations and the state of Tennessee.
The Hixson eLab and the other seven locations are part of a Volkswagen eLabs initiative to provide students with access to digital fabrication tools including automated manufacturing equipment, programmable microcomputers, renewable energy kits, 3D printers, robotics, and laser cutters that will empower the young learners to engage in authentic problem-solving, said officials.
The addition of the eight new eLabs was the second round of VW eLabs awarded to schools in Hamilton County as a result of a $1 million donation by Volkswagen Chattanooga and the state of Tennessee to fund the program. With the opening of the first eight VW eLabs last year there are now a total of 16 eLabs in Hamilton County Schools helping to prepare children for the future.
In the labs, students are designing and 3D printing orthopedic devices for people and pets with special needs, conducting research on the viability of autonomous electric vehicles and taking salvaged parts from a computer to build a robot. Seven labs successfully launched student-run entrepreneurial ventures to run a classroom-based business.
“Hands-on learning nurtures creativity and innovation through design,” said Nicole Koesling, Volkswagen Chattanooga senior vice president of human resources. “We have seen firsthand how this method increases engagement with students and improves their problem-solving skills. The Volkswagen eLabs allow students to discover for themselves how to solve real-world challenges using the latest technology.”
“I am amazed by what Hamilton County students are doing in the Volkswagen eLabs, the tools they are using and the solutions they are discovering,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. “Hamilton County Schools is leading the way in workforce development with these groundbreaking eLabs, and I thank Volkswagen for its investment in our schools.”
“The Volkswagen eLabs have created excitement for learning, and you can see that in the eyes of the children in the labs,” said Dr. Bryan Johnson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools. “These labs open a new world of possibilities in instruction for teachers and prepare students to be future ready.”
Training of teachers and resources are key, and the Public Education Foundation plays an important role in the partnership by providing training, research, and resources to teachers, principals, and schools, said officials.
"Volkswagen eLabs are changing how our children are learning,” said Dan Challener, president of PEF. “Thanks to these labs and the extraordinary teachers who lead the learning, students are now using cutting-edge tools to wrestle with real problems – can you build a water filtration system without electricity? Can drones deliver eggs? Can you build a solar-powered go-cart?”
Each Volkswagen eLab is implemented by a Volkswagen eLab Innovation Team to help ensure utilization to the maximum capacity. The teams are led by teachers, dubbed “Volkswagen eLab Specialists,” who are equipped with skills in facilitating learning through digital fabrication.
"This work is truly transformational for our community," said PEF Director of Innovation Michael Stone. "Volkswagen eLabs Specialists are redefining what is possible in the classroom, and their students are engaging in revolutionary learning experiences that are reshaping how they think about their future."
The 16 Hamilton County Schools that have received Volkswagen eLabs are:
Brainerd High School*
Brown Middle School*
Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences
Center for Creative Arts*
Dalewood Middle School
East Hamilton Middle School
Hixson Middle School*
Hixson High School*
The Howard School
Hunter Middle School
Normal Park Museum Magnet School
Ooltewah Middle School*
Orchard Knob Middle School*
Red Bank High School
Sale Creek Middle High School
Soddy Daisy Middle School*
*New addition in 2018
Schools were selected through a competitive proposal process by representatives from Volkswagen Chattanooga, Tennessee Department of Education, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Hamilton County Department of Education, and PEF.